Palm Bay: “Mommy! That Man Is Being Mean To Me!”

Tres Holton

The headline caught our eye:

Tres Holton walks out of Palm Bay City Council meeting

“What could possibly cause a Councilman to walk out of a City Council meeting?” we wondered.

City Councilman Tres Holton walked out midway through Thursday night’s meeting after Councilman Jeff Bailey accused him of using his SunPass account and personal email at the dais.

However, Holton said he was conducting official business during the meeting, not personal business.

Holton and Bailey sit side-by-side during city council meetings. The dispute occurred during discussion of a

zoning variance for a $35 million commercial development next to Bass Pro Shops.

“Maybe we need to stop for a minute because I see that Councilman Holton seems to be interested in his SunPass stuff, as well as his personal email. So maybe we need to stop a minute so we can all pay attention?” Bailey asked Mayor William Capote.

Discussion briefly halted, and Holton looked at Bailey.

“Go ahead. Pay your bill,” Bailey said to Holton, gesturing at Holton’s laptop.

Holton did not comment. He left the dais before the zoning vote occurred, and he did not return to the meeting. The remaining four council members unanimously approved the variance.

The Cliff Notes version of this is that during the City Council meeting, Holton says he got a notice about his SunPass account needing more money and so he opened a tab during the meeting. He says that as the reload of the SunPass was for a trip related to the City, he was doing “official, not personnel, business.”

We’ve heard a lot of lame excuses in our lives, but that one ranks right up there.

What Holton doesn’t seem to realize (or maybe he does realize and doesn’t care) is that while he is fiddling with his SunPass account (even if it is only to look at the balance or the notification,) he is doing so while a presentation and a discussion of another issue is going on.

One would think that Holton would have the decency and the courtesy to listen to what is being said and focus on that and not allow his attention to wonder.

There are many people who think that Council members and elected officials come into a meeting with their minds made up on an issue and not amount of discussion, reasoning or listening to others (including the public) is going to change their mind. Holton’s actions add to, if not confirm, that perception.

What is ironic about this is that Holton tried to introduce a “civility pledge” to be voted on by the Palm Bay City Council.

Among the provisions of the civility pledge is a promise “to promptly cease if I start to engage in personal verbal attack on a city staff member, a citizen or on one of my fellow elected officials at a City Council meeting.”

The proposal also calls for the mayor and the other four City Council members to “strive to be civil in addressing city staff, members of the public and my fellow elected officials; to listen attentively to speakers; to respect the right of others to hold different opinions; and to avoid rhetoric intended to humiliate others.”

Holton later pulled the resolution, but it is clear that he believes that others should “listen attentively to speakers” while he does other things during the meeting.

As for the civility part Holton thinks Council members should follow? That only applies to during a Council Meeting. So Holton’s attack on Councilman Bailey outside of the Council chambers was fine.

Contacted Friday, Holton said he had a SunPass tab open on his city laptop in advance of participating in a Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Alliance meeting Friday morning in downtown Orlando.

Holton said he did not pay his SunPass bill during the meeting, and Bailey “badgered and bullied me.”

“Councilman Jeff Bailey disrupted an important $35 million dollar commercial development agenda item, by paying more attention to my city laptop than I was at that moment — ostensibly to attempt to personally attack and embarrass me, but ultimately embarrassed himself and the City of Palm Bay,” Holton wrote in an email.

“As to my exit from the meeting, my wife and I teach our children to walk away from an unrelenting bully, which is exactly what I did as a positive role-model,” Holton wrote

We don’t see Bailey’s remarks on what Holton was doing on the dais as being from an “unrelenting bully.”

It appears to us that Holton got caught doing what he wanted others to stop doing and didn’t like his hypocritical actions being exposed in public.

Furthermore, even if Bailey was being a “bully,” one stands up to a bully – one doesn’t walk away and then later make a statement on your moral superiority. You don’t get to label people as an “unrelenting bully” for exposing your hypocrisy and then call yourself a “positive role model.”

Bailey called out Holton in front of the Council and the public. Holton went home and hid and released a statement when asked. That’s hardly being a stand-up type of role model for anyone.

Not only that, a “role model” finishes the job for which they were hired or in this case, elected. You don’t walk out of a meeting over something like this, abandoning the people you were elected to represent.

It should be noted that Holton’s wife commented on the article trying to justify her husband’s actions and labeling the article as “fake news.”

Unless Mrs. Holton was up on the dais with her husband, she has no idea what was on his computer screen. The fact that Bailey says “go ahead and pay your bill” indicates that the payment screen was up, not just a simple notification. Furthermore, why would Holton open a notification if he were “listening to the discussion?” Wouldn’t he had put that aside until after the meeting?

The Holtons’ explanation(s) rings hollow and untrue.

With all that being said, it could have been worse.

Rep. Ramon Perez (D-Johnston/Providence) said he was unaware that the handout contained what appeared to be a sexually-explicit search history. The printout was timestamped at 2:07 AM.

Perez handed out the papers Wednesday night at a House Finance Committee meeting.

“I didn’t notice it. I was searching for information for the committee. Someone gave me that information. I’m not going to name them. Some people were trying to help me,” said Perez, in a phone interview. “If somebody is to blame, it’s me. It’s my fault. I’m very sorry.” Perez is a freshman legislator.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) said Perez was testifying Wednesday night in the State House basement, for a bill he sponsored, dealing with automobile accident protection for uninsured motorists. Spokesman Larry Berman said, “He asked a clerk to distribute the handout, and it was noticed that the tabs contained inappropriate language. They were then collected.”

Perez posted an image of the printout on his own Facebook page, noting that he didn’t notice the questionable material on it, and had handed it out by mistake.

Yeah. Sure. Someone else gave you a screen shot of this.

Uh huh.

We have some swampland that Councilman Holton would love to sell to Representative Perez.

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